Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., Nov. 1, 2002
Western KeysDamage (Self-Starter Foundation)
We've been hearing about them for a while now, and Post-Parlo Records honcho Ben Dickey finally has his own venture Western Keys off the ground, ironically releasing this debut EP on New York's Self-Starter Foundation (Les Savy Fav, Mooney Suzuki). The buzz on Western Keys is that their copious use of pedal steel has brought about an unusual emo-country hybrid. An interesting notion, but it's not entirely accurate here. Instead, Dickey has cranked out catchy, up-tempo slabs of weepy angst, more than a little reminiscent of chief influences Bright Eyes and Silver Scooter, along with Cap'n Jazz and just about any angst-ridden, intentionally sloppy emo band. The key here is the songwriting quality, much advanced from Dickey's old outfits Capsize and New Cuba. Damage's first two rockers could fill up the living room of a Saturday night Eastside party along with the best of them. Then John Troutman's pedal steel begins to dominate the slow numbers, and things get depressing in a hurry on tracks like "Laughter" ("I left her broken and bloody by the side of the road"). "Driver Denies" finds a slow, distorted midpoint before the straight, up-tempo twang of "Become You," and the sad, slow "Free" cap off this solid, multifaceted debut.